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Interview with Matthew West

Kiri Lanice [BREATHEcast Reporter]
[ May, Thu. 15 2008 10:05 AM EDT ]
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Matthew West by Alan Cockrell (BC Photographer)
Just as Matthew West was ready to show the world he had Something to Say, doctors let him know that he didn’t. He was told he might not utter a peep for a long time because he had to have surgery on his vocal chords after losing his voice. For months after the surgery, he was completely silent communicating using his dry erase board.

West remembers being afraid.

“I think I was just afraid of the outcome. There were no guarantees that my surgery would be a success. So with that, you know, came a lot of questions. A lot of questions that started with the words, ‘What if?’ What if my voice doesn’t come back? What if it sounds different and peopled don’t like it? What if I have to find a new job, and what if I can’t provide for my family? All of those things. Basically, for a singer to lose his voice for that long of a time is the equivalent to a construction worker, you know, getting laid off or hurting his back and not being able to make money and provide for his family. So there are a lot of kinda real life questions that I just had to deal with, really had to spend a lot of my time just kinda crying out to God, bringing my questions to him and having to trust that he knew what was going on and that he wouldn’t let me go.”

Right. Do you ever question at that time, “Is this my purpose? Should I be doing something else?”
It really was, you know, which scared me in itself cause I think it was like to ask. To have to come back to the very beginning again, it’s like “maybe I’m going the wrong way.” It was like, “I never thought of that.” I never considered, I just always went after it. So, yeah, that was one of the questions I was facing. I was going, “. OK, Lord, if I’m not supposed to use my voice to sing anymore, then you show me what you have planned ‘cause I’m just confused.”

Was that one of the main things driving “You’ve Got Something to Say?”
It is now. Ironically, those songs on the album “Something to Say” and the title of the album, those were all written before my surgery. That’s how I knew. I learned over again that God has a sense of humor. Because here I was, I was getting ready to make an album called “Something to Say” and went to the doctor’s office and they were like, “You got nothing to say. You gotta have surgery.” There was too much irony for it to be a coincidence, and you know, I don’t believe in coincidences, especially not now. I feel like the Lord has just continued to remind me that He’s in control of all things and this was just a major lesson that I needed to learn some things during before this album could come out. It was as if this surgery needed to happen before I could figure out what “Something to Say” and the songs on the album really meant.

Wow. That definitely is from Him.
Congratulations on “You are Everything” going #1. What inspired you to write that?
Again that was one of those songs that I thought I knew what it meant when I wrote it. But at the time I was just getting to the fact that without God, I am nothing. Nothing is possible. I just wanted to write it from a very human perspective of “God, where would I be without someone to save me?” Sorta asking that question and being like, “I’m a mess without you.” Those lyrics took on a new meaning for me after the surgery. I’m broken. As the song says, “I’m the one with two left feet standing on a lonely street.” Just kinda wanted to poetically describe how human we are, how in need of God we are, you know. Now I really feel the meaning of that song.

There’s another song on your album that I think really speaks to a lot of people about you being a preacher’s son. You sorta grew up in a glass house, and sometimes, when you might feel like there’s no one else, you reach for that love. Was there something going on at the time when you wrote that?
Well, all my songs are pretty much autobiographical. When people get my record and they get to know my music, it’s like people can come to expect that the songs have been lived. I don’t know how to describe it. I write songs that are inspired by my life experience. So, “Friend in the World” is one of those songs. It tells the story of a young girl who grew up in a broken home. Her parents divorced, and yet she found God. Of course when you can’t find a friend in the world, love is reaching down and then it tells the story of me growing up, like you said, in the glass house of a preacher. The story resolves to where you find out that the girl I was singing about in the first verse became my wife. So, it’s just really a story of how we serve a God of redemption. That nobody whatever hand we’re dealt in life or maybe how many wrong turns we’ve made, it’s really one step back to God. He directs our path and leads us on to places that we would never imagine, but our lives are so much better when we realize we have a friend out of this world. We have a friend that reaches down and lifts us up out of all the wrong turns we’ve made and creates a life for us beyond our wildest dreams. So that song is kind of my story.

If there’s anything you really want someone to get out of this album, what would you want it to be?
Well, my hope in this album and with the film we made following my surgery, I really just felt compelled to be open and transparent about my own time of brokenness because I believe my vocal surgery is somebody else’s broken home. It’s somebody else’s loss of a job. It’s somebody else’s illness. It’s somebody else’s mistakes that they’re having a hard time moving on from. You know we all have brokenness. It comes in varying shapes and sizes. It looks differently for all of us, but I just hope that by me being transparent with my brokenness that people will see that what we see as damaged goods, God looks at and says “I’ll take your damaged, and I’ll use it for good.” That’s really been something God has put on my heart. “You’re a singer, you’re damaged goods, your vocal chords have been through the ringer, but I’m gonna take you and I’m gonna lift you up. The world’s gonna see that I’m God who heals.” So, if somebody can listen to my music, somebody who maybe feels like they’re damaged goods in their own life, can be reminded that God can take damaged and use it for good.

Well, there’s one more question. Because I know you’ve been doing this for a while, what is maybe your best, favorite or craziest experience?
Throughout all of it?

Yeah. I know you probably have a lot.
Well, I would probably have to point to my most recent experience of being on tour with tobyMac and Jeremy Camp this spring. It was an awesome experience. It was, the whole thing start to finish, playing in some beautiful arenas and theaters in front of thousands of people. So there’s some moments. I would probably lump this moment in with some of my others. Every chance I get to stand up on stage with a guitar and sing to people, it’s a moving experience. Now it’s one that, after my surgery and not knowing if I was gonna be singing again, I just find myself filled with gratitude every time I get a chance to take the stage, knowing that it’s only by the grace of God that I’m standing up here.

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Matthew West
Label : Universal South
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Matthew West
Label : Universal South
 
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